Political Science | Political Science Laboratory
Y280 | 3409 | Sellers


Recent elections have changed the United States Congress in dramatic ways.
The 1994 midterm elections brought the Republican Party to power for the
first time in decades.  In the 1996 elections the Democratic Party narrowed
the Republicans' congressional majorities, and President Bill Clinton won
reelection.  In the 1998 midterm elections, congressional Democrats
maintained their strength in the Senate and further narrowed the Republican
House majority to a mere 5 seats, a postwar low.  As the 2000 elections
approach, control of Congress may again be in question.
This course will examine the nature of these changes and how they have
affected (or will affect) the House and Senate.  We will examine a number of
related questions: how do legislators balance serving constituent interests
and producing national legislation?  What are the competing centers of power
and influence in Congress, and what determines which area of influence is
more dominant?  How extensive are incumbent advantages in congressional
elections, and why do challengers sometimes overcome them and sometimes fail
to do so?
As students examine these questions, they will develop important skills in
writing (a series of one-page papers), research (for the papers), and
computers (analyzing national surveys to figure out patterns in opinions and
attitudes).  I have worked in both the House and the Senate, and these
skills were necessary for all my assignments.  The usefulness of the skills
extends beyond getting an internship or full-time job in politics, however.
In a legal setting lawyers must perform research for their clients,
summarizing their findings in clear and concise memos.  And in the business
world, it is important to understand the attitudes and preferences of ones
customers, and analyzing surveys are a central part of market research.